More than meets the eye: Google reveals “smart contact lens” that measures glucose levels in body

Currently, there are 382 million diabetics across the world who must routinely monitor their blood glucose levels. By pricking their finger and putting a drop of blood onto a testing strip, sufferers can check for dangerous drops or spikes in these levels which can indicate either hypo- or hyperglycemia, and administer insulin accordingly. The days of this rather unpleasant method may soon be over however, as Google has come up with a rather simpler (and more transparent) way forward… 

The technology giant has spent the past 18 months developing a “smart contact lens” which measures the glucose level of tears, to help improve the lives of diabetics across the world. The lens uses a the “smallest glucose sensor ever made” and a miniature transmitter, embedded between two layers of lens material. 

When looking at the lens, two glitter-specks, loaded with tens of thousands of miniaturised transistors, are visible, along with a ringed hair thin antenna. Yet, these miniature electronics manage not to obscure vision as they lay outside of the area which covers the pupil and iris.

“We’re still really early on. We’re confident about how the technology is going so far. But there’s a huge amount of work left to do,” Mr Otis, project leader for the smart contact lens, said.”We’ve had to work really hard to develop tiny, low-powered electronics that operate on low levels of energy and really small glucose sensors”.

The firm is also looking at integrating LEDs which would light up when blood glucose levels have risen or fallen beyond a certain point.

The smart contact lens certainly has the same sci-fi, futuristic appeal as its lab fellows, a driverless car, Google Glass and Project Loon, which were all produced by the same Google X lab.

Although Google says the prototype will take at least five years to reach consumers, many think the revelation will bring a new wave of miniature technologies which target the healthcare sector. Manoj Menon of Frost & Sullivan commented that: “It is likely to spur a range of other innovations towards miniaturizing technology and using it in wearable devices to help people monitor their bodies better”

This may already be  happening. The Telegraph reports on a gadget called “Sensible Baby”, revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which monitors the temperature, orientation and movement of a sleeping baby and triggers a smartphone alarm if any problems are detected.

Similarly, Japanese firm Sony have recently filed a patent for a ‘SmartWig’ with uses that include healthcare. The wig uses a combination of sensors to help collect information on the temperature, pulse and blood pressure of the wearer.

Whatever will be next?

Sources include: BBC News; The Telegraph

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